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Located in the heart of Yorkshire, Leeds offers a city break packed with northern charm. So grab a brew and check out our recommendations below to help you start planning how to fill your time (and your shopping bags).
Inspired by Yorkshire’s local history, Crafthouse’s seasonal menu celebrates the best of British produce. It is also the only restaurant in the country to own a Josper Grill, meaning that its chargrilled meat and fish dishes are truly one of a kind. And if the tantalising menu alone isn’t enough to tempt you, the fifth floor location offers wrap-around city views so you can enjoy your meal in spectacular urban style.
The Tiled Hall Café
Located in Leeds Art Gallery, The Tiled Hall Café is great for causal lunchtime dining. Tuck into a steaming bowl of soup, comforting jacket potato or, for those with a sweet tooth, indulge in a locally baked slice of cake and creamy hot chocolate to refuel after a busy morning of sightseeing. Despite the treats on offer, one could argue the café’s true splendour lies not in its food, but its beautiful décor. The tiled walls and striking marble columns add a touch of Victorian glamour to the place, making this café really stand out from the crowd.
The Man Behind the Curtain
While The Man Behind the Curtain is a little pricey, it offers a dining experience like nowhere else in the UK. Unusual dishes and eccentric presentation both lie at the heart of the Michelin star tasting menu, sometimes up to 14 courses. It’s the brainchild of Great British Menu winner Michael O’Hare, the self-professed ‘hair metal chef’, whose influences from the world of music and art are clear to see throughout. Experimental and edgy, this rare gem is an absolute must for foodies.
Wander along the waterfront at Granary Wharf
For a beautiful waterside setting in the very heart of Leeds, Granary Wharf is the place for you. Take in the breath-taking Yorkshire views from Leeds’s finest rooftop bar, Sky Lounge, or head into the quirky Bilbao Bar for a delicious handpicked selection of wines. Alternatively, why not pair your real ale with a spot of sushi at Ossett Brewery’s very own Candlebar for a cosy evening with an oriental twist?
Explore the bars and pubs of Briggate
One of the oldest streets in the city, Briggate is not short of traditional inns or modern bars, so whatever your tipple of choice, it certainly won’t disappoint. Duck into Whitelock’s, the oldest watering hole in Leeds, for a night bursting with traditional character, or find your new favourite beer in North Bar – with over 150 to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Party the night away at Call Lane
Boasting the liveliest nightlife in Leeds, Call Lane is a popular haunt for students and young professionals. Dance into the small hours at Wire or Space, or spend the evening in Call Lane Social, open until 4am every day. Alternatively, if a night on the tiles isn’t your thing, try a craft beer in the Black Swan, or head to Jake’s Bar to sample one of their very own homemade liqueurs, straight from their copper pot, affectionately known as Tabitha.
Leeds Corn Exchange
Home to the very best of Leeds’s independent retailers, the Corn Exchange offers a shopping experience like no other. Browse the beautiful range of fashion outlets, gift shops and specialist boutiques under the spectacular Grade I listed domed roof – and don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for pop up events and fairs, offering vintage treats, delicious food, quality drinks, and much, much more.
Head over to Kirkgate to experience the largest indoor market in Europe and birthplace of high street giant, Marks and Spencer. With stalls selling everything from flowers to furniture, even the biggest shopaholic won’t know what to look at first. The market also hosts regular vintage, record and book fairs on selected Saturdays throughout the year making it an absolute treasure trove for collectors and antique fans.
With over 120 high street favourites, including H&M, Urban Outfitters and Topshop, Trinity Leeds is the city’s largest shopping and leisure destination. Underneath the iconic glass ceiling there are also plenty of cafés, bars and restaurants, as well as the only Everyman Cinema in the north of England – the perfect entertainment for a rainy Yorkshire day.
Explore Leeds’s religious heritage at Kirkstall Abbey
One of the best preserved medieval Cistercian abbeys in the UK, Kirkstall Abbey is a must-see. Walk in the footsteps of the 12th century monks as you explore the spectacular ruins and tranquil surrounding parkland. Although beautiful all year round, the misty winter months give the dramatic architecture an unbeatable Gothic atmosphere that lets the imagination run wild.
Escape to the country… just don’t forget your coat
Just over an hour from the city centre lies some of the UK’s most beautiful scenery. Almost equidistant from the North York Moors, the Yorkshire Dales and the Peak District, Leeds really does spoil you for choice, so put on your boots and head out into the unblemished land of God’s Own Country for a blissful break from the city’s busy streets.
Fight like a Tudor knight at the Royal Armouries
Sister museum to the Tower of London, the Royal Armouries is home to the largest collection of arms, armour and artillery in the UK. Catch live military shows from jousting to falconry in the outdoors Tiltyard before putting your own skills to the test at the crossbow shooting range. Open 10am to 5pm daily.
Feed the penguins at Harewood House
Completed in 1771, the stunning Harewood House offers hours of fun for the whole family. While you admire the beautiful Chippendale furniture, the kids can step into the shoes of a Victorian servant at the dressing up station before heading outside to swing and slide in the adventure playground. And don’t forget to meet the friendly alpacas and ever-popular penguins at the onsite farm experience and exotic bird garden.
Steam ahead at Middleton Railway
Explore Britain’s locomotive history at the world’s oldest working railway. After learning about Yorkshire’s industrial past in the hands-on visitor centre, jump onto the next train for a trip on the tracks. The Santa Special train also comes to town in December – let’s hope his sack is filled with more than just coal.
Join Captain Tooms on his quest for gold
Designed with kids in mind, Leeds’s self-guided treasure trail offers a fantastic way to discover the city’s history at one’s own pace. Get your detective hat on as you follow Captain Tooms’ long lost map to hunt for clues across the town. Will you be the one to discover the location of the buried treasure?
Explore the city by water taxi
Travel around in speedy style on one of Leeds’s free water taxis. Running every 20 minutes between Granary Wharf and Leeds Dock, they are the perfect way to save your time (and your legs), so sit back and see the city from a new perspective as you discover Leeds the scenic way.
Soak up the city’s culture
Leeds Cultural Quarter is located just east of the city centre, and is bursting to the brim with galleries and museums for you to visit. For the largest collection of sculpture in Europe, pop into the Henry Moore Institute, before wandering past the city’s neo-Gothic cathedral en route to the City Museum or Art Gallery. Within a five minute radius of each other, you’ll be wasting no time travelling from site to site.
Find the best Yorkshire pudding in Leeds
A trip to Leeds wouldn’t be complete without trying a real Yorkshire pudding, but if you don’t have time to settle down for a traditional Sunday roast, there are plenty of options to suit your culinary needs. For a mini-northern roast on the go, sample a warming Yorkshire pudding wrap at Kirkgate Market’s Food Hall or at the fortnightly Farmers’ Market in Briggate. All homemade, there won’t be a frozen Aunt Bessie’s in sight.
The Grand Arcade Clock
Over 100 years old, this famous Leeds clock has remained a focal point of the Grand Arcade for generations. If you time your visit right, you’ll see the cockerel peek out from the top as figures twirl around the base on the hour, every hour – a nostalgic spectacle for adults and children alike.
Rivers MEET Craft Café
Offering everything from jewellery making workshops to bird watching sessions, this family-run café and shop is the perfect place to get crafty and learn a new skill. But if your own DIY efforts don’t go to plan, don’t worry – you can browse the selection of local crafts in the self-branded ‘smallest department store in the world’ before enjoying a relaxing afternoon tea at the onsite café.
Not far from the city centre, Woodhouse Moor is a breath of fresh air. Get sporty at the free weekly Park Run or take a picnic if the weather’s nice. And if you’re visiting in November, the Bonfire Night firework display is also a firm Leeds favourite.
Get political at Abbey House Museum
Shaped by protest movements and fierce social campaigns, Leeds’s colourful history is anything but boring. Uncover the true tales of political unrest at Abbey House Museum’s temporary exhibition, open until February 18.
Match day at Elland Road
Home to Leeds United FC since the club’s foundation in 1919. So why not be part of history and cheer on the northern lads as they battle to win the EFL Championship? Diehard football fans can also have a sneaky peak behind the scenes on a guided stadium tour – just remember your camera for a selfie in the director’s box.
Waltz over to Leeds Grand Theatre
Prepare to be mesmerised by Leeds-born dance troupe, Northern Ballet, their lyrical adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre promises to kick the spring listings off in style in March.
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